It was all aboard the Strictly Express (quite literally) for the launch of the thirteenth series of the BBC’s smash hit dance show. Fourteen fresh faced and enthusiastic celebrities along with human mannequin Daniel O’Donnell all took to the floor over the weekend after what seemed like the longest build up in sequined history. Individual names were drip fed to us each day in August before the launch show in early September, then a whole three weeks to wait before the competition in earnest started but we’re finally here. So, as Jess Glynne advised us rather tunelessly on the launch show, “Hold My Hand” and join me for this year’s journey through the Strictly storm.
The news: for the much loved professionals, it was out with the not-so-old (in this case Robin Windsor, Trent Whiddon and Iveta Lukosuite) and in with the new; South African dance champion Otile “Oti” Mabuse, Russian Dancing with the Stars, er, star, Gleb Savchenko and Italian stallion and general Vincent Simone 2.0, Giovanni Pernice. Good choices on many counts here, in Oti (Or “Oh-tee” if you’re Tess Daly) the show has its first black pro – hurrah for belated attempts at diversity and in Gleb the show has … the most beautiful man ever created, think a young Roger Federer. (A cursory Google I did in the name of research tells me he’s occasionally modelled underwear, do with that what you will.)
The Good: So what of the new celebrities’ first competitive outing? Peter Andre’s Cha Cha with partner Janette Manrara was rather boringly competent, I’m certain we’ll be seeing him until at least the semi-finals, I hope Janette can spice things up with some inventive choreography. Not so expectedly, Call the Midwife actress Helen George performed a nervy but endearing Waltz with Aljaz Skorjanec, her ballet training coming in useful. Perhaps most unexpectedly of all was BBC Proms presenter Katie Derham, who did a stunningly natural Jive for week one. Partner Anton Du Beke seemed on the cusp of weeping with joy after years in the Strictly wilderness steering the likes of Anne Widdecombe and Judy Murray around the dancefloor.
The bad: Controversially, no one was terrible. Perhaps the only candidate for the wooden spoon is weather presenter Carol Kirkwood, well we couldn’t have partner Pasha Kovalev in the final for the third time in four years, could we?BBC presenter, Jeremy Vine was hugely charismatic and watchable, but defined dad-dancing. His chemistry with partner, Karen Clifton is rather sweet, I hope they stick around for a bit. Singer Daniel O’Donnell’s Waltz was rather pedestrian but there’s no point even moaning about it because his fan base means we’ll likely be seeing him until Christmas anyway.
Strictly Bingo moments: Bruno fell off a chair, Darcey over marked the male celebs, Len made some terrible puns, Brendan Cole referred to his 39 year old partner as “this girl”, and of course this is the TOUGHEST.STRICTLY.EVERRR.
Other moments of joy: Judge Craig telling Anthony Ogogo, “You’re the best boxer we’ve ever had!” Read: You’re slightly better than Joe Calzaghe and Audley Harrison. Er, thanks. Clearly owing to a B-lister getting cold feet prior to the launch show, professional Joanne Clifton has no celebrity partner, she can instead be seen pirouetting to herself on the closing seconds of the opening credits. Kristina Rihanoff pretending to enjoy sitting through Daniel O’Donnell’s spontaneous, acapella, one-man concert mid-training sesh. Pasha descending, topless, from a thunder cloud during the opening moments of his Cha Cha with Carol Kirkwood.
Hopefully, if you’ve not tuned in yet, that little taster will have whetted your appetite to dip your twinkle toes into the sequined waters of Strictly this year. I’ll be checking back in at the competition’s midway point in Blackpool to see who might be heading for this year’s glitterball trophy.
First published on LondonDance.com